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Canada Announces Agri-Food Industry Immigration Pilot Program

Canada has declared a new three-year immigration pilot program designed to help the agri-food sector bring in full-time, non-seasonal foreign workers required to fill growing labour shortfalls. The agri-food immigration pilot was included in the recent federal budget.

In it’s 2019 Budget released on March 19, the government said it will launch a three-year immigration pilot program to bring in agricultural workers that will help Canada’s Agric-food industry meet with its export target as well as retain the needed labour force, by giving agricultural workers permanent residency.

The IRCC says the agri-food immigration pilot initiative will help foreign agri-food workers brought to the country through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) secure permanent residence status, instead of having them renew their work permits over and over again.

With permanent residency status, agri-food workers would have access to more of the social security or insurance they help pay for by way of taxation, such as the Canadian Pension Plan and the Employment Insurance.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says the pilot program will roll out later this year, but a specific start date is yet to be announced.

The pilot would be subject to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which would limit the number of workers the pilot places on the route to permanent residence to 2,750 principal applications yearly over the three years of the program. With accompanying dependants added, the number of people placed on the route to permanent residence would likely be in access of that quota, which counts eligible principal applicants only.

The oncoming of the agri-food immigration pilot program on the Canadian immigration scene has been applauded and welcomed by agencies such as the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), with CFA President Mary Robinson saying, “If you are a farmer and you do not readily have secure labour, then you are less likely to make investments in your sector and you are less likely to expand your Agric business.

The Canadian Meat Council (CMC) also praised the Canadian government for introducing the agri-food immigration pilot program.

“This pilot is essential to our sector. Our members provide ceaseless, permanent jobs. There’s nothing temporary about meat processing’s labour force requirements” says Chris White, President of CMC. “We presently have over 1,700 job vacancies to fill with 900 butchers looking to secure permanent residence – this immigration Pilot program will provide a route to residency for butchers in every province which isn’t available to us right now.”

The pilot initiative is a collaboration between the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.